In this song the protagonist is being harassed by her lover on the phone when she's trying to dance in a club. "Stop callin' - I don't wanna think any more," she tells him. "I left my head and heart on the dance floor."
The song features Beyoncé, who returned the favor to Gaga after the dance queen guested on the former Destiny Child singer's "Video Phone
." The two superstars first met at the 2009 Billboard Women in Music Event, at which Beyoncé won the award for Woman of the Year and Lady Gaga, Rising Star.
The song was co-written and produced by Rodney "Darkchild" Jerkins, and it was originally intended for Britney Spears, but it wasn't included on her album. Jerkins previously collaborated with Beyoncé on Destiny Child's hit single, "Say My Name
GaGa told MTV News that this song is about her "fear of suffocation." She explained: Something that I have or fear is never being able to enjoy myself. 'Cause I love my work so much, I find it really hard to go out and have a good time."
Gaga added that the phone in the song isn't just a physical phone, but also somebody in her head telling her to keep working harder and harder. "That's my fear - that the phone's ringing and my head's ringing," she explained. "Whether it's a telephone or it's just the thoughts in your head, that's another fear."
This was the third time Beyoncé charted as a guest artist on someone else's record. Her first billing was on Jay-Z's "'03 Bonnie and Clyde
" in 2002 and she subsequently recorded a duet with Alicia Keys, "Put It In a Love Song
" around the same time as "Telephone."
The song's music video is a controversial nine-and-a-half minute Tarantino homage featuring lesbian prison porn, much product placement, and some swearing and murdering. Jonas Åkerlund, who previously helmed Gaga's "Paparazzi
" mini movie, directed the clip. The Swedish filmmaker and video director's best known achievement to date is his Grammy-winning contribution to the promo of Madonna's "Ray of Light
." Gaga explained to E! News why she hooked up with Åkerlund again: "There was this really amazing quality in 'Paparazzi,' where it kind of had this pure pop music quality but at the same time it was a little bit of commentary on fame culture. I wanted to do the same thing with this video - take a decidedly pop song, which on the surface has a quite shallow meaning, and turn it into something deeper: the idea that America is full of young people that are inundated with information and technology and turn it into something that is more of a commentary on the kind of country that we are."
The infamous Pussy Wagon from Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill Vol. 1 reappears as Gaga and Beyoncé's getaway mobile in the video. Gaga explained to E! News: "We were having lunch one day in Los Angeles and I was telling him about my concept for the video and he said, 'You gotta use the Pussy Wagon!.'"
Åkerlund added to MTV News: "That car is actually the real car from the Kill Bill movie and we had a different car. We were gonna have a convertible hearse, but then Gaga had some sort of meeting with Quentin [Tarantino] and he offered to lend his car. We thought that was fun too."
In the video the date on the prison security cameras (February 11, 2010) is the same date that the late British fashioner designer Alexander McQueen's body was discovered in his London home. When Gaga performed this song at the BRIT awards, shortly after McQueen's death was announced she told the crowd, "This is for Alexander McQueen." The stage was decked out in white, and perched on a pedestal was a statue of Gaga wearing the McQueen lobster-claw heels she wore in her "Bad Romance
TV personality Jai Rodriguez, who played the video's reporter, told MTV News that working with Gaga and Beyoncé was a great experience. He added that there no rivalry between the two very famous pop stars on set. "No, [there was no drama]. That was the weird thing," he said. "They were just kind of watching the dailies together and the director would instruct. I think Beyoncé was set to shoot all her scenes in one day, so they were really pushing to get her done - there was no chilling out. Those girls were in and out of makeup trailers, in and out of costumes."
The actor Tyrese Gibson plays Beyoncé's boyfriend in the video. Åkerlund told MTV News: "He was kind enough to help us out. Luckily he was in L.A. and he was up for it. It's hard to get actors to be in videos. It's not always as challenging and rewarding as they're used to."
Gaga told Los Angeles Power 106 radio station that the song's mini movie is more about Beyoncé than herself and claimed that the former Destiny's Child singer is her "vehicle" for changing the idea of what a visual product can be. "The video in a lot of ways is more about [Beyoncé] even than it is about me," Gaga said. "It was sort of a pop-art venture for me to bring her into my world. In a way, the video is an attempt for her and I to erase pop music as we know it up until this very point. It's meant to change the perspective of the world on what a pop music video should be and she's kind of the vehicle for that. In reality, more people around the world are familiar with her aesthetics than they are with mine. It was something for me to kind of change the way that you see her for one video."
Gaga discussed with Ryan Seacrest the Coca-Cola cans she wears in her hair in the video. "My mom used to do that when I was a kid," she explained. "'Cause if we didn't have any rollers in the house, she'd slice up some Coke cans and then she'd heat them up and pin them in her hair."
Gaga added that she "really believe[s] in the power of visuals, and sometimes visions come to me and I know I have to do them. It doesn't really matter if it makes sense or if it doesn't make sense. By the end of the video, it became so much more as we explored each scene it became about transsexual women and it became about making fun of American hallmarks like soda cans and cigarettes and mayonnaise and bread."
The song's climb to #1 on the UK singles chart coincided with The Fame returning to the top of the album tally for the third time. Gaga had preciously managed the same achievement in April 2009 and this meant she became the second solo female to simultaneously top the UK singles and albums chart on more than once occasion. Madonna is the other solo female artist to do so.
The song was Lady Gaga's fourth UK #1 single in a little over 14 months, the only other solo female artist to have topped the charts four times in a shorter period was Madonna who managed a quartet of chart-toppers in 12 and a half months between July 1986 and July 1987.
This was the most played track during 2010 on Spotify. In a double whammy for Gaga, The Fame Monster was the most played album of the year on the music streaming service.
Gaga originally wrote the song for Britney Spears' sixth album Circus. The New Yorker only recorded it as a collaboration with Beyoncé when it failed to make the album's final track listing.
Gaga admitted in a May 2011 interview with Time Out that she has grown to loathe the video as it tries to cram in too many ideas. "I hate it so much," the New York star said. "Beyoncé and I are great together. But there are so many f---ing ideas in that video.All I see in that video is my brain throbbing with ideas - and I wish I had edited myself a little bit more."
Among the victims in the diner scene of the video is the band Semi Precious Weapons, who opened some shows for Gaga on her Monster Ball tour.
Gaga did part of this song when she played halftime of the 2017 Super Bowl between the New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons. The game was held in Beyoncé's hometown of Houston, but Bey, who had recently announced she was pregnant with twins, didn't join her. There is no doubt she would have been welcome, as she appeared the previous year and headlined in 2013.